From Donald Ujokanma
There are strong indications that Anambra State Governor Peter Obi is bent on putting a judicial seal on the widely condemned Anambra State Governorship Election. His latest game plan is the recruitment of a new and pliable chairman for the election petition tribunal set up by the President of the Court of Appeal Zainab Bulkachuwa to hear petitions arising from the highly flawed and controversial election.
The outgoing governor who foisted his anointed son, Chief Willie Obiano on the All Progressives Grand Alliance as its governorship candidate and orchestrated his declaration by INEC as the “winner” of the Anambra governorship poll, has now succeeded in sacking the chairman of the tribunal, Justice J. K. Kaigama, replacing him with a reportedly pro-establishment judge, Justice Ishaq Bello.
Obi is said to have petitioned Bulkachuwa, claiming that Kaigama was granting frivolous orders to the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Senator Chris Ngige. Kaigama’s ‘sins’ were that he merely granted orders to the petitioner to inspect election materials and to serve the petition on the defendants by substituted means.
Obiano was declared winner of the election after the election was originally decalred as “inconclusive” by INEC and after three rounds of voting, all of which were fraught with serious irregularities and condemned by local and foreign observers including the Transition Monitoring Group and the United States government.
Analysts have observed that Bello is not new to controversies and judicial watchers state that he is prone to handing down “hatchet” judgements.
It is recalled that he was the one that dismissed the pro-Rotimi Amaechi leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers State, replacing it with one pliable to Aso Rock. This has thrown the once peaceful state into a crisis that it is yet to recover from. He also handled the matter involving the killing of the “Apo Six”, a trial which many found as unsatisfactory.
Some have also questioned Bello’s grasp of the law. It was the same judge that nullified the nomination of Governor Saminu Turaki of Jigawa as the gubernatorial candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in the April 19 polls and declared the governor’s main rival in the party’s primary elections, Alhaji Bashir Mohammed Dalhatu as the candidate rightfully nominated.
In his ruling, he stated that courts can interfere with decisions of political parties on choice of candidates. When the decision of the Supreme Court to the contrary was brought to Bello’s notice, he sensationally said that the Supreme Court should amend its decision on the matter. He was severely reprimanded by the Supreme Court for this serious breach.
It is recalled that there were speculations of a pact between Obi and The Presidency regarding the Anambra Governorship Election. Analysts are worried that the recruitment of Bello for the unfinished “Anambra job” may be a continuation of the pact and a way of giving a judicial seal to the widely condemned election.
As things stand, only time will tell whether the people of Anambra State will get justice in Bello’s court regarding the controversial and roundly condemned elections.